Media Research Center, the long-running conservative media watchdog, and a new group called Media Equalizer say for too long the left has successfully pressured advertisers to stop advertising on shows featuring hosts like Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, who were eventually forced off Fox News, and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, who have so far fought off their critics.
“Fighting fire with fire is just to point out this can go both ways,” said Brian Maloney, a former conservative radio host heading up the Media Equalizer movement. “We’re trying to show [that] if you’re going to play this game, live or die by this sword. I don’t think the left is used to the right firing back on this.”
I was one of the last in a generation of identifiable weirdos – a group anyone could name on sight. Born in the 1980s and coming of age before internet ubiquity started the mass disinfecting of differentiation. For years I’d glutted on my mother’s records – Joy Division, Bauhaus, The Cure, Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie Sioux – wondering how we’d gone from this to Britney and S Club 7. I traded my acoustic guitar for an electric, joined a youth club and had my first brush with punks, metallers, riot grrrls and goths. It felt like a homecoming. I was hypnotised by sidereal girls with alabaster faces. Otherworldly, with lined eyes, raven lips and inky hair. I wanted to be one. This was a tall order for a Fife mining town girl, where the most exotic spoils of the local Superdrug were brown lip gloss and foundation in a spectrum of artificial peach. So, a trip to Edinburgh. An inaugural excursion to Cockburn Street for “supplies”, to begin a transformation that would see me through teendom and beyond.
Nearby Fleshmarket Close was enveloped by swarms of scene kids. Fishnets, chokers, jeans as wide as big tops, skyscraping mohawks. Independent shops for inchoate rebels – records, hair dye, leather, body jewellery, chains, tarot cards, tattoos. I was in love with this alternate reality at first sight.
I found my way to Whiplash Trash – a dingy grotto of perspex heels, neon bongs and cheap PVC militaria that I’d end up living above six years later. I made my first purchase of my future uniform. A mempo of Stargazer makeup: white foundation, kohl liner, black lipstick.
I put it on in Princes Street Gardens, unable to wait the length of a Fife circle train home. I watched my face change through each layer. First de-saturating with dabs of moon-coloured liquid, then contrasted in the extreme with jet liner and charcoal lips. I saw myself – I was sure of it.
We are accustomed to personality politics, though its 2017 incarnation – with the prime minister sending out leaflets that don’t mention the party, preferring “myself and my team”, and the opposition leader seeking to sail into Downing Street on a wave of 20,000 Libertines fans singing his name – is pretty rum. We are less accustomed to politics in which the personalities are sold as the diametric opposite to what they are. A woman who changes her mind on everything, and days after she’s said something says the opposite, is running as the immovable rock in a turbulent world, while a man who hasn’t knowingly changed his mind on anything since 1983 is presenting as the pluralist, the one who can listen.
All the restraints on political discourse, which force the elegant manoeuvres where you soften or pad out or re-contextualise reality so that it better fits your story, have been removed. To say the opposite of what is true is now more than acceptable: it amounts to a core strategy. Or, to put it more simply, they will just say any old bollocks.
For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on — a need for sanity and to expand my horizons, perhaps? — I’ve been switching up the stuff I put in my head recently. I’m still reading a metric shit-ton of comics, because that really kind of is my job, but this past couple of weeks, I’ve been making an effort to balance that out with prose about… other stuff, again.The thing I forgot about summer — probably because it didn’t happen last summer, when everything was strange — is that I find time to read prose, in a way that I don’t manage during the winter, or even the in-between seasons. Right now, I’m juggling a handful of books on cultural theory and social changes driven by technology — The Ministry of Nostalgia, The Inevitable and The Industries of the Future, Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy, from the Seventies to the Twenty-First Century, with Against Everything waiting in the wings — with some purposefully trashy reading (A trilogy of Star Trek novels, which have proven to be a lot of fun) and, of course, my preferred method of information gathering these days, podcasts.
The multi-use nature of podcasts — that I can learn things and be entertained while doing other things, on the move — is endlessly appealing to me, and so I remain fascinated by good use of the medium. Current podcast addictions are Says Who, Pod Save America and Lovett or Leave It for politics, The Daily for news (I listen every morning making breakfast) and Song Exploder for musical anal listening. I’m looking forward to the new season of Invisibilia and dip in and out of countless others, impatiently looking for some aural perfection that I can’t even explain if I wanted.
(No, really, I don’t know what I want from my ideal podcast; I wish I did. I’d just make it.)
Part of this is also a desire for new music, or at least, hearing new things in old music. My last couple of months has been all Humanz and Moondog and Jellyfish, and I’m not sure if there’s a connective tissue in there or not (The current Jellyfish obsession is particularly interesting, because I can hear all the influences I wasn’t aware of before; “He’s My Best Friend” is so clearly a Harry Nilsson song, but I never picked up on that before because I didn’t listen to Harry Nilsson). If there is one, I think it’s the quality of sounds, if that makes sense? What the three share is a value in the literal sound of their music, outside of genre or lyrics (or vocals at all, really): the interesting stuff to hear and unpick and embrace and enjoy. I feel like I need more of that, from new stuff or old: things to make me pause and unpick.
(Part of the impact of the Shock and Awe book has been to make me re-evaluate and draw lines between different music that I like, to try and find the connective tissue and see where the various pieces intersect; I’ve become fascinated recently with the previously unseen throughline between Big Audio Dynamite and Delakota, which means that the Clash and Gorillaz are connected beyond Plastic Beach, and makes me wonder where else that thread of… what, British cut-and-paste music culture has been, and gone? Time to revisit Coldcut, I suspect.)
It t would take a colossal dash cam—rolling 24 hours a day, filming in Cinerama, capturing it all in surround sound—to retain all the Donald Trump and Russia news that sailed by this week. As Air Force One carried Trump to the Middle East and Europe in the first big trip of his presidency, the images broadcast back home made him look like the star of a musical comedy directed by Robert Altman. There was some goofy sword dancing in Saudi Arabia, gaffe-ing in Israel, where he said he hadn’t said “Israel” to the Russians, and some body-control issues in Brussels as he dispensed semi-secret handshakes, under-basket elbows and lectures to befuddled European leaders who shunned him.
This was the week that the seeds of scandal and ineptitude planted over the past six months finally sprouted their first shoots, wrapping green tendrils around the president’s ankles and around the throats of his aides, yanking them to earth. This was the week the idea that Trump could stall or outrun his tormentors was put to rest as two congressional committees, one special counsel, the FBI and the deep state pressed him from every angle. Trump is now caught in history’s grinder, and the sparks and noise emitted are lighting up the media universe.
I like to leave at the end of the day. You can’t really leave if you don’t go in. When I work from home, there’s a casino effect: I don’t see people arrive or take off for the day, and without the natural rhythms of other humans I tap away for hours until it’s 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 8, because if other people are still online I should probably be too. Their green chat statuses blink like an accusation, a reminder that any activities and people in your off hours can and should be sacrificed on the corporate altar of productivity, all soft and small autonomies forever second to the god of industry.
Early on, Solov’s prediction seemed to be coming true. “Breitbart News is the #45th most trafficked website in the United States, according to rankings from Amazon’s analytics company, Alexa.com,” they wrote on January 9, 2017. “With over two billion pageviews generated in 2016 and 45 million unique monthly visitors, Breitbart News has now surpassed Fox News (#47), Huffington Post (#50), Washington Post (#53), and Buzzfeed (#64) in traffic.” A month later, the site had even greater cause to celebrate. “Breitbart News is now the 29th most trafficked site in the United States, surpassing PornHub and ESPN,” they crowed. In the article, its staffers bragged that their bonkers traffic reflected the site’s cementing a permanent place in American politics. “The numbers speak for themselves,” said Solov. (Many outlets, including The Hive, experienced traffic peaks around Trump’s inauguration.)
Just a few months later, the numbers have a different story to tell. As of May 26, 2017, according to Alexa.com—the same web-ranking analytics company that Breitbart drew its numbers from in January—Fox News is the 64th most-trafficked site in the country. Huffington Post is at 60. Buzzfeed is at 50. The Washington Post, on the strength of a series of eye-popping scoops, is at 41.
Breitbart is in 281st place.
Measuring web traffic is an inexact art, but other web-analytics companies reflect a similar, unusually steep decline in Breitbart’s traffic. ComScore estimated that Breitbart had nearly 23 million unique visitors during the month of November 2016, but only drew 10.7 million in April 2017, a 53 percent drop. Last month, the site had fewer visitors than it did in April 2016, when 12.3 million people visited the site. In contrast, the four sites that Breitbart benchmarked itself against saw nowhere near that drop—and, in the case of both Fox News and Buzzfeed, saw small increases in traffic since the November election.
For those catching up on this incredibly subtle distinction, and there do seem to be a few, Katie can still say whatever she likes on social media – and in the Daily Mail, for as long as Paul Dacre will retain her services.
But LBC seems to have decided, to adapt the senior officer in Top Gun, that Katie’s ego was writing cheques her body couldn’t cash. Then again, it is reported she has cost the Mail group at least £474,000 in libel damages and costs thus far, while she was found personally liable for £131,000 of the same after losing a case to the writer Jack Monroe. So it is possible that – how to put this? – Katie’s hand may soon be writing cheques her bank account can’t cash.